Automation before the factory floor

Automated hygiene stations, only being available to the largest facilities previously, are now becoming more commonplace in smaller, regional food packing plants.

Rana Meal Solutions produces both fresh, refrigerated product and frozen foodservice varieties of filled pasta and sauces for the U.S. market. At its USDA-approved plant in Illinois, employees are instructed to change into facility-supplied shoes and to wash that footwear upon entry into various food processing areas. Rana Meal Solutions installed four boot washing stations from CM Process Solutions at the employee entrance from the locker areas to the facility, and also at the entry to zones of higher risk. These continuous-passage boot washers are fully automatic and sensor-operated.

Boots are cleaned by two horizontally mounted brushes that clean the soles, and four vertically inclined brushes that clean the sides of the boots. Each unit also includes a chemical detergent injector system. Two employees at a time can walk through the equipment at a brisk pace, so “we can traffic 50 people through the equipment at break time in only a few minutes,” says plant manager Adam Messmore.

These systems ensure that proper hygiene processes are followed before employees are able to come into contact with food products. One such system even requires that the proper procedure is undertaken before the system will ‘unlock,’ cutting out an employee being able to take shortcuts.

According to Chris Stafford, vice president of operations for Papa Cantella’s, all areas within the company’s Vernon, Calif., plant are kept completely separate, with employees working in only one area that has its own lunch and locker room. Coats and footwear are provided, but not shared between areas.

Stafford says the previous system for cleaning footwear involved sanitizing foam that was sprayed at the entryway at pre-determined time intervals, followed by the application of a hand sanitizer rinse. The new hygiene station is equipped with a stainless steel turnstile that automatically unlocks only when the employee has correctly followed the machine’s requirements.

Automating employee hygiene procedures can ensure that all employees are following the procedures that keep us safe from food contamination.


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